So Many Insane Plays – Beautiful Boringtide: A Vintage Set Review

Read Stephen Menendian every Wednesday... at StarCityGames.com!
When a new set comes out, we all look for cards that’ll make a splash in our favorite format. Vintage players usually find this task a short one – Magic’s most powerful format isn’t easily impressed by fresh cardboard. However, the past few sets have shook the format with a slew of powerful effects. Does Morningtide continue the trend? The clue is in the title…

Until Time Spiral, I had little patience for writing Vintage set reviews. It seemed like such a waste to go through the entire set to find one, perhaps two cards that could maybe see play in Vintage. That was, until Time Spiral debuted. Time Spiral was a significant addition to Vintage. Planar Chaos brought a few more playables. And Future Sight blew us out of the water, giving us more playables pound for pound than any set since Alpha. Lorwyn, while it didn’t give us as many playables as Future Sight, had a tremendous impact on Vintage with three cards that were not just playable in Vintage, they were format changing. A lot of times, a set will give you playables, but they are more marginal (see Coldsnap with Rite of Flame and Jotun Grunt – both playable and good, but neither is format defining). Thorn of Amethyst has completely shifted the balance of power in Vintage, as my articles the last two weeks have described. But even where Lorwyn cards didn’t have a big impact in Vintage, in many instances they were interesting or innovative designs that have great potential, like Gaddock Teeg.

So, now that Lorwyn has been played for a good three months, how did I do?

In my Lorwyn set review, I wrote:

Here are my Top 5 prospects from Lorwyn:

1) Thoughtseize
2) Thorn of Amethyst
3) Ponder
4) Sower of Temptation
5) Gaddock Teeg

I think I nailed this one, with one caveat. I would rate Thorn of Amethyst as the most important addition from a metagame standpoint, although it is not a more powerful card than Ponder or Thoughtseize. Thorn of Amethyst earns its spot as the top card from Lorwyn because of the metagame in which it was introduced. The Gush and Storm metagame is punished by this type of effect. And it isn’t even that this type of effect is particularly effective by itself. It’s the fact that there is now a critical mass of this effect such that Workshop decks have a new, built-in consistency.

So, what’s in Morningtide?

It’s impossible to not read through the White cards in Morningtide without seeing just how nasty these cards could be when put together. The threshold test for viability for Vintage Aggro has to be something along the lines of Goblins. Goblins has Goblin Lackey as a recurring Black Lotus, Mogg Fantatic as key Vintage disruption, a draw engine in Ringleader, a tutor in Matron (or Recruiter) and an insanely quick clock that can win on turn three with Piledrivers. Goblins is in a good color that can board in Red Elemental Blasts. Morningtide’s mix of Preeminent Captain with Ballyrush Banneret reminds me of what Goblins has, but I don’t really see any advantage here. White is not really a more disruptive color, nor are these cards really stronger than the mistakes that were printed for Goblins. If for some reason a viable Vintage Kithkin deck emerges, I’d be shocked.

The Black cards in this set are brilliantly designed. I see serious design innovation in every other card. Very few will be Vintage viable, unfortunately.

Let’s take a look at specific cards.

Countryside Crusher

Much has been made of this card already. It appears to be one of the signature cards from the set. In terms of application, I think this card is constrained by its casting cost. I can’t think of a non-Goblins card that costs 1RR that sees or has seen play in Vintage. That said, if there is an application, this card has the potential to be very powerful. There is a forty-three land deck in Legacy, which is mostly just lands and Exploration + Life From the Loam. The problem, however, is that this card may not actually add enough to justify its inclusion. You can get an obscenely large dude, but is that really that much better than Terravore? The key difference is that this guy mills your library for you, acting as a pseudo tutor with cards like Life From the Loam or even Reclaim. But is that enough? I’m skeptical. I predict that this guy, while interesting, will not be a factor in Vintage.


This is a nice, elegant design that needed to see print. Vintage players have been using Chain of Vapor and Echoing Truth for several years now. Echoing Truth is a mainstay in Vintage decks. But both of those cards have the unseemly drawback of being symmetrical. If you both have Darksteel Colossi in play, Echoing Truth or Chain of Vapor just won’t get the job done. Disperse will. Unfortunately, as bad as Echoing Truth is at bouncing an opponent’s Quirion Dryad when you have one in play as well, bouncing multiple Sphere of Resistances or other troublesome permanent is a huge upside. That said, I think this will see some play in Vintage, although a very marginal amount.

Earwig Squad

Turn 1 Goblin Lackey. Turn 2 attack with Lackey putting Goblin Warchief into play. On your mainphase, play this for its Prowl cost and Jester’s Cap your opponent. Yes, this card is playable and good. A solid tool for Goblins. He’s not small either. This card is good against Vintage combo (just imagine what it does to Flash!), if you survive long enough to play it (i.e. one turn). But more importantly, it should be great against Oath of Druids decks. It’s also just good against Vintage as a concept, which often focuses on a few great cards or a few win conditions to seal the deal. This pretty much guarantees that Vintage goblins will have a Black splash, which should have been a given anyway with Leyline/Jailer as sideboard options for Ichorid.

Idyllic Tutor

Enchantments are an inherently powerful species of card type. One only need think about Yawgmoth’s Bargain or Necropotence to remember this fact. There are currently two good enchantment tutors in Vintage, one restricted and one not. The first is Enlightened Tutor. This card sees very little play at the moment and could arguably be unrestricted, despite the fact that it can also find artifacts, including Black Lotus. The other card is Sterling Grove, which sees no play.

This card is better than both in at least one respect: it puts the card directly in hand. The casting cost is also very playable and splashable at W2. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough good enchantments to justify this card right now. There are all sorts of enchantment combos that could be explosive: Sylvan Library + Pursuit of Knowledge can jump you into 7 cards very quickly, at the same price as Intuition + Accumulated Knowledge.

It is possible that this card could fuel some unexplored combo, but my fear is that such a combo would be more viable in a format like Legacy than Vintage. In Vintage, the speed and brutality of the format puts inherent constraints on more “fun” concepts that this card might fuel. Even in Legacy, I fear that the unrelenting Daze, Force of Will, Spell Snare, Counterbalance hell that you’d have to fight through would break up any combo you might be able to pull off. This card is perhaps a card to watch and play around with, and maybe someday it could be playable. Maybe.

Grimoire Thief

This is a card that could be quite annoying in a Fish type deck. I could imagine this guy seeing some play in a Vintage aggro-control deck, but not right now. The metagame isn’t right for Fish-type decks, but it will be again someday. This reminds me of Jester’s Scepter, but actually good. This card could easily take out 12 cards and cause a huge headache countering a crucially timed Force of Will or Mana Drain. I think this card is Vintage playable. That does not mean that it will be played, but simply that it is good enough to see play.

Knowledge Exploitation

This is a very nicely designed card. This will be an automatic inclusion in Type 4, and is theoretically good enough for Vintage so long as you have enough good Rogues to use it. U3 to steal your opponents Yawgmoth’s Will and play it is good enough to see play in Vintage, simply because of the centrality of Yawgmoth’s Will to the format and the fact that you can get Ancestral Recall or Time Walk or something of that ilk as a last resort. I don’t know of enough good Rogues (or any, in fact) to make this work. But if there are, have at it.

Mind Spring

Okay, this card is not very good in Vintage, but it is interesting. It took far too long for Stroke of Genius and Braingeyser to come off the restricted list. Although Braingeyser can serve as a win condition, the greater liability is the fact that Braingeyser can be Misdirected with Misdirection. Mind Spring cannot.


Over the last few years more and more 1U counterspells have seen print. This card is playable, but couldn’t have come at a worse time, which is obviously the irony of printing this card in a block emphasizing creatures. I’d rather play Prohibit or Rune Snag.

Maralen of the Mornsong

This card is as dangerous as you can get in Vintage. This card could just hand the win to your opponent. You play here and your opponent untaps, finds Yawgmoth’s Will, and ends up winning the game through absurd card advantage. Sure, there are cute ways to lock your opponent out, say with Aven Mindcensor. But you can’t rely upon awkward two-card creature combos, even with a tutor like this in Vintage. This card is, in my opinion, too dicey to be viable. It’s powerful, but power ain’t everything. Even in Vintage.

Murmuring Bosk

There are a few decks in Vintage, like Belcher, that intentionally run few lands. They run Land Grants as ways to find the few lands that they do run. This card is fetchable with Land Grant. Unfortunately, it will always come into play tapped. Nonetheless, this is a sideboard option that can give a Land Granter access to White or Black.


Mishra’s Factory has been a mainstay in Vintage decks since the days of the Maysonet Rack/Balance deck. Factory shows up today in Workshop Aggro and even MUD decks as a powerful way to apply incremental damage and win tempo wars. Mutavault is the second best manland in existence right now, and a fine complement to Workshop Aggro strategies.

Most importantly, this creature supports Mishra’s Factory and vice versa. If I attack with a Mutavault, I can animate a Mishra’s Factory and tap it to give a Factory +1/+1 until end of turn. This card is not only playable, I’m certain that it will see some Vintage play.

Research of the Deep

Is this card too good at Instant speed? Ugh.

Recross the Paths

This is a powerful effect, but I can’t think of a single situation in which it would be good. Nice design though.

Sensation Gorger

This card is a fascinating and intriguing design. Its effect is very powerful and could be consistently implemented in Vintage. The problem is whether it would be effective enough. Giving your opponent four new cards can be extremely dangerous, even if you are drawing four new cards each turn. After one use, you should probably be able to win the game though. This card is playable.

Sigil Tracer

This effect is very powerful. It’s too bad this card costs UU1 instead of just two mana.


For four mana you could refill your hand… if your opponent has a full grip and if you do not. This card may be comparable to cards like Meditate in terms of card advantage to conditionality. If on average you only draw three cards, this is not a good deal. But if on average you draw 5 cards or more, then this would be a good card. In most games and most situations, it would probably be the former rather than the latter.

Stonybrook Banneret

It’s really hard to tell just how effective the cost reduction cards are. One could imagine interactions with cards like Cloud of Faeries and a critical mass of synergies that would justify running a card like this. Much depends on how Gottlieb erratas the race/class characteristics of certain creatures.


My title is a bit unfair. This set isn’t really boring. It’s a fantastic explosion of design space. It’s a mixture of old cards with new twists (Mutavault is a great example; I’m also a fan of Floodchaser — perhaps the greatest twist on the oldest and most banal of cards), old themes using new mechanics (Pulling Teeth looks sweet from a design perspective), and just plain old new design space (Maralen and Scarblade Elite standout).

Beyond being interesting from a design perspective, the set is just gorgeous from an artistic perspective. I’ve done my review from a visual spoiler. And with all of the cards lined up against each other, you get an incredible richness of colors and shading. This set and Lorwyn really seem to push artistically away from the gritty comic book feel of sets prior to Kamigawa and move us more toward a rich fantasy theme that is so much more reminiscent of the original sets like Alpha, yet much more sophisticated in its own way, in terms of lighting (see Preeminent Captain) and bending perspective (see Forfend and Coordinated Barrage). Redeem the Lost and Reveillark have a classical, high Renaissance quality to them, in the pillared frame and the swooping dove — both stunning artworks.

But that said, while there appear to be Vintage playable cards, I think there are no guarantees here that any given card will actually see play, with perhaps the exception of Mutavault, which inevitably will see some measure of play.

Therefore, my Top 5 picks for Vintage are:

1) Mutavault
2) Earwig Squad
3) Knowledge Exploitation
4) Grimoire Thief
5) Murmuring Bosk

Disperse would make my list, but despite its simplicity, I don’t think it will see play over Echoing Truth or Chain of Vapor.

My hope is that while R&D may not be intending to make new cards for Vintage, the design space that they are pushing will continue to find its way into Vintage, as Future Sight so amply demonstrated. I hope they continue to push the boundary. Now that we are out of a block that is basically creature oriented by focusing on the Race/Class nexus, I hope that we will get even more Vintage playables in the next go-round.

Until next time,

Stephen Menendian